Bias

Biases are shoot first and ask questions later.

(2018) Documentary (1091) Robin Hauser, Iris Bohnet, Mahzarin Banaji, Anthony Greenwald, Heidi Roizen, Ronald Tyler, Howard Ross, Allyson Robinson, David Rock, Judith Michelle Williams, Krista Morgan, Promise Phelon, Aileen Leo, Malcolm Gladwell, Lori Nishiura Mackenzie, Jerry Kang, Shikira Porter, Nirav Tolia, Lois James, Steve James, Angéle Christin, Abby Wambach. Directed by Robin Hauser

 

We all have pre-conceived notions of one sort or another; African-American males are criminals, women are too emotional to lead, liberals are elitist snobs, conservatives are ignorant rednecks. Sometimes our biases are so subtle we are unaware that we even have them.

Documentary filmmaker Robin Hauser examines the biases that are in all of us. I think most of us like to think of ourselves as unbiased and objective but there are online tests that you can take that will quickly disabuse you of that notion. The tests are part of a study that confirms that most Americans – and indeed, most humans – have some sort of bias. Maybe we favor a certain political philosophy. Maybe we are suspicious of people of a certain ethnic background. Maybe we believe women are less capable than men. Hauser was shocked to discover that she herself had that bias, that men were more career-oriented and women more family-oriented. As a woman who has a career, she thought she’d have a different viewpoint.

Hauser talks to a number of researchers, authors, psychologists and social engineers, people who shape viewpoints. We are shown how biases form a part of the fabric of society and how many people are even unaware that they have them.

The documentary can be a bit dry in places, and there are a lot of talking heads, but there are also some impressive animated sequences as well as some information that is sure to make you raise an eyebrow if not drop your jaw. Hauser is an engaging host, taking front and center in her documentary as she talks to people on the street, takes the online test in the presence of those who created it, and engages in a police exercise meant to focus on police biases and help cops overcome them.

It’s a fairly short watch and for those who think that they are pretty much objective, this can be a game-changer. While I didn’t take the online test myself (the documentary shows you how you yourself can take it), I did recognize some of my own political biases rearing their ugly heads. While the film asserts that we can “re-program” ourselves to eliminate biases, it doesn’t really explain how too deeply and does mention that it is an extraordinarily difficult process, but knowing that those feelings are there is the first step in dealing with them.

REASONS TO SEE: Eye-opening. Some nifty animation.
REASONS TO AVOID: Lots of talking heads giving dry information.
FAMILY VALUES: There is occasional profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is Hauser’s third documentary feature.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, Vudu
CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/15/20: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet, Metacritic: No score yet
COMPARISON SHOPPING: This Changes Everything
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT:
The Sharks (Los tiburones)

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